Summer is quickly coming to an end and it won’t be long before students are headed back to class for the new school year. For parents and school officials, the number one concern for the 2016-17 school year is student safety. Below are a few tips to help keep your child safe throughout the year.

If your child will be riding the bus to school, it is important that they arrive early to the bus stop and stand away from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive. They should also wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before getting on or off, and never walk behind the bus to board. If you plan to drive your child to school in the mornings, please be sure that they always wear a seat belt. Car seats or booster seats should be used for younger children, and they should ride in the backseat until at least 13 years of age. Most schools have regulations in place for student drop-offs. Please be sure to review and adhere to your school’s regulations.

Backpacks aren’t often thought of as a hazard to children, but according to the U.S. Consumer and Safety Report, backpack-related injuries send an estimated 5,000 children to the emergency room each year. When purchasing a backpack for your child, be sure to buy one with two wide, padded straps that go over the shoulders.  Padded waist or chest belts also help to distribute the weight of the backpack more evenly. You should also be sure to avoid over-packing your child’s backpack – when fully loaded, your child’s backpack should weigh less than 15 percent of his or her body weight. Use a bathroom scale to measure the maximum backpack load.

Bullying, particularly cyberbullying, is another safety concern that is on the rise. Bullying can be physical, verbal or social, and may take place at school, on the bus or online. Cell phones and social media are easy avenues for bullying to take place and should be monitored regularly by parents. If you believe your child is being bullied, ask them about it. In many cases, children will not disclose that they are being bullied because they don’t want to be a “tattle-tail.” If you still have concerns after speaking with your child, set up a meeting to discuss these concerns with his or her teacher. Teach your child the appropriate way to respond to a bully such as staying calm when confronted or walking away.

If you believe your child is bullying others, address the issue with your child and teach them that bullying is never OK. Effective, non-physical forms of discipline, such as a loss of privileges, may help to put a stop to the bullying. Children who are bystanders to bullying taking place should be encouraged to join in with others in telling the bully to stop and to tell an adult about the bullying.

James Blackwell, M.D.
Pediatrician
Eskenazi Health West 38th Street